One of my favourite surrealist images, Figures au Bord de la Mer (usually known in English as Figures on the Beach), was painted in 1931, when Picasso was wrapped inside a love affair with a new muse – Croatian photographer, painter and poet Dora Maar.
The oil on canvas captures the figures’ insatiable appetite, as their mouths open wide to devour each other and tongues stretch out intently amid rows of small sharp teeth. Fiery hunger and determination mixes with the softness of the embrace – the same odd dichotomy of passion and gentleness as found in the ocean beyond. One can almost imagine the bodies rising and falling to the rhythm of the waves lapping the shoreline. Both figures are in ecstasy. The ‘female’ figure closes her eyes and beckons the pleasure, while the ‘man’s’ eyes remain open with concentrated intent.
Their form is sculptural, like rocks worn smooth over the years by the wind and sea. They are made one not only with each other but also with the natural environment. They exist moulded together in an entanglement of curved limbs, the breasts forming an unmistakably human centrepiece to the fluent shape. The bodies glow golden in the sunlight, while a small beach hut adds an almost comical domesticity to the scene.
I find the painting incredibly beautiful and powerfully erotic; however I struggled to find any commentary relating to it (where is Brian Sewell when one needs him?). I therefore welcome your comments, analyses, thoughts or feelings about the piece.